Monday, June 1, 2009

MadWorld - First Impressions

A good friend of mine bought MadWorld on day one. I watched him play one level and was intrigued. Not only by the high-contrast graphics and the over-the-top violence; not just the unique motion controls and variety of combat; but also the fact that MadWorld was published by the typically E-T rated Sega. Being the frugal gamer I am (read: poor), I decided to wait for a price drop before diving into this blood-filled pool.

It was worth the wait. MadWorld is a game without a modern comparison. The first thing you'll notice are the stark, Sin City inspired graphics. In fact, everything in the game is in high-contrast black & white, with the only colors being yellow for highlighted objects, and of course, red for all the blood. (If you have an HDTV, you'll also notice there's no progressive scan support, probably because the added clarity would have made the minimalist graphics look too jagged.)

But what do graphics matter of the gameplay is bad? No worries there. Here is the best way I can describe it: Take any late '80s/early 90s arcade beat'em-up, subtract all color, add lots of blood and profanity, plus motion controls, multiply by the third dimention, and you have MadWorld. If you're interested in creating your own MadWorld, here's the formula:

Beat'em up - RGB + (O+) + !%$# + Wii × 3D = MadWorld

The story (not that it matters) takes place on an island that has become isolated from the rest of the city. You play as Jack Cayman, who is "sponsored" to play in a literal deathmatch reality show. If you are still thinking after that, stop. You can keep the logical thought part of your brain switched off for the remainder of the game — at least for the first couple of levels, anyway. I haven't gotten any further than that yet.

Buttons are used for punching, grabbing, activating your chainsaw arm (Did I mention you have a chainsaw attached to your arm? Because you do.), and locking onto enemies. Everything else is motion controlled. You can throw, impale, bind, slam, bifurcate, and otherwise maim, dismember, and murder your enemies, all with a little context sensitive waggling. Deathtraps like spikes, dumpsters, trains, and yes, even toilets are scattered throughout the levels, providing opportunities for some spectacularly gory kills. Motion controls are intuitive and forgiving, and rarely do anything you don't want them to do, and on-screen prompts ensure you don't forget what you are doing.

My biggest issue so far is the lack of camera control, which often makes locking onto enemies and aiming your throws difficult. Some bonus games require you to toss enemies in some sort of deathtrap, which seems easy enough, until you realize that no one is flying where you want them. There's also no quick turnaround, which combined with the camera issue can make close combat with multiple enemies a bit of a pain. Fortunately, the difficultly level at this point in the game is forgiving, and not killing your enemy immediately is rarely a major problem.

The game progresses through a point system. Different attacks earn you different amounts of points. The more variety you apply to your kills, the more points you get. Throughout the levels there are Blood Bath Challenges, which are exactly what they sound like. A special, extra large deathtrap will appear, and your job is to throw, push, carry, or pummel your opponents to their ultimate demise. The more you can kill at a time, the more points you earn. Once you reach a certain amount of points, the next area opens until you achieve enough points to face the level's final boss. I've only faced two bosses so far, but they were challenging enough, and certainly big enough, to make for an exciting battle.

WadWorld is a perfect example of what I'd call a hardcore casual game. The mechanics are simple enough for just about anyone to play, but the game's content will turn off most casual gamers. If you're a Wii owner and consider yourself a hardcore gamer, or are even curious about MadWorld, you owe it to yourself and gamers like you to buy this game, if only to convince publishers that there is a hardcore market on the Wii.

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